Major Thomas Frankish, RAMC (Att’d)

Thomas Frankish was born on November 21, 1867 in Bromley, Middlesex to George Frankish, an inspector for the Inland Revenue, and Sarah Jane Frankish (née Nettleton). He was the oldest of four boys; George (b.1870), Walter (b.1874) and Henry (b.1877). His sister Alice Gertrude Frankish was born in July 1880 but died in 1882.

Thomas went to medical school at Edinburgh University graduating in 1889. He remained at university and received a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in 1893. After graduating and undergoing residencies at Bournemouth and Lewes, he moved back to live with his parents working as a Surgeon at Accrington Victoria Cottage Hospital and the Royal Infirmary, Bradford.

Royal Field Artillery

On February 9, 1898 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Lancashire Artillery Volunteers. In 1901 he married Edith Mary Jennings and on July 18, 1903 their only daughter, Freda May Frankish, was born. By 1911 they were living in Accrington with two domestic servants and Thomas was a Major in the 5th Lancashire Battery, Royal Field Artillery, 1st East Lancashire Brigade. On September 23, 1913 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and assumed command of the Brigade. In his civilian life he was working in private medical practice, in partnership with Dr. J. S. Harbinson, and had been the Honorary Surgeon at Accrington Victoria Cottage Hospital for over a decade.

The Outbreak of War

At the outbreak of war, when he was 47 years old, he closed his medical practice and sailed with the 42nd Division to Egypt in September 1914 as Officer Commanding the 1st East Lancashire Brigade, RFA. While in Egypt his worsening presbyopia meant that his eyesight deteriorated to the point where he was reported as unfit to command due to defective eyesight. To his credit, he arranged to resign his commission in the RFA, allowing the promotion of his successor, Major Arthur Birtwistle, and to be granted a new commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps, (RAMC). The War Office granted the request on condition that he accept the rank of Major, which he did, and thus he lost both seniority and tenure which he struggled to come to terms with throughout the remainder of his war service.

Royal Army Medical Corps

He was commissioned Major in the RAMC on March 9, 1915 less than a week after Major Hilton of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment died at Heliopolis, leaving them without a Medical Officer. Since there was a need for his services with the 42nd Division but no suitable vacancy, he was added to the Army’s list of RAMC officers not attached to a medical unit and rotated through various posts as and where he was needed. By his own account, he served as the Senior Medical Officer at the British Military Hospital, Khartoum and as Medical Officer for the 1/7th Manchester Regiment. The 1/7th Manchesters being based in Sudan from September 30, 1914 until they returned to Egypt in April 1915.

Gallipoli with the 9th Manchesters

Back in Egypt he was attached to the 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment on May 5th, 1915 serving as their Medical Officer. This attachment was wired to the War Office by the G.O.C. Egypt Expeditionary Force and it turned out to be the last official communication from the field concerning him and so for the next several years, as far as the Army was concerned, he remained attached to the 9th Battalion and was presented as such on the Army List. In later years he spent much personal effort attempting to correct the record without much success.

In fact, his tenure with the 9th Manchesters lasted less than 4 months, landing with them at Cape Helles on May 9, 1915 and remaining with them until temporarily transferred by the 42nd Division Assistant Director Medical Services (ADMS) to the 1/3rd East Lancs Field Ambulance on August 31, 1915. He was belatedly struck off the strength of the Battalion on October 21st when he was permanently transferred to Divisional HQ, as Sanitation Officer.

He did not serve as Sanitation Officer long because on November 11, 1915 he was medically evacuated to the 17th General Hospital, Alexandria (ex Hospital Ship Delta) suffering from dyspepsia and dysentery, the third attack that he had endured on the peninsula. He remained at the 17th General from November 17 to December 6 when he was transferred to an Officer’s Convalescent Hospital at Luxor.

Egypt 1916

Sufficiently recovered, he reported for duty with the 42 Division’s 1/1st East Lancs Field Ambulance at Shalufa on February 13, 1916. Just over a week later he transferred to the 35th Casualty Clearing Station, on February 22nd. He was briefly made Officer Commanding RAMC Details, Sidi Bishr, Alexandria but he was not well and after constant headaches for six weeks and occasional sudden attacks of fever, made worse by exposure to the sun, he was admitted to the British Red Cross Hospital at Ginza on April 8th suffering from Pyrexia of Unknown Origin. He recovered over the next 3 weeks and no microbial infection was found but on April 22nd he was medically assessed and granted 2 months home leave to recover in a more temperate climate. Consequently, he boarded the Hospital Ship Salta at Alexandria on May 14, arriving Southampton May 26, 1916.

On May 28, 1916 he was medically assessed at the 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester where it was noted that he had recovered on the voyage home but was still not at his usual strength. They granted him 1 month’s leave and he reported for a second medical assessment on June 17 where he was passed fit for General Service. He embarked the Troop Transport Minetonka at Devonport bound for for Alexandria on July 5, 1916, arriving there on July 19.

On July 23rd he reported for duty at the 15th General Hospital, Alexandria where he remained for the remainder of 1916.

Salonika 1917

He was not happy away from the action and so by his own request he embarked a Hospital Transport ship for Salonika on April 4, 1917 arriving six days later. Here he was briefly posted to the 28th General Hospital before assuming command of the 8th Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance on May 3, 1917. They remained in Salonika until June 1st when they embarked for Egypt, arriving 3 days later.

In early October the Assistant Director Medical Services (ADMS) Yeomanry Division wrote a scathing letter to the Deputy Director Medical Services (DDMS) Desert Mounted Corps complaining of Major Frankish’s unsatisfactory performance, especially with regard to the Field Ambulance’s field sanitation standards. The DDMS concurred and used Major Frankish’s own 3-page, detailed riposte to the charges as evidence that he would be better suited to a support, rather than a field, position. GHQ concurred and transferred Major Frankish to the RAMC Base Depot, Mustapha where he assumed command on November 3, 1917. This position carried the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and he assumed this rank from this date forward, although it took almost two years for the Army to recognize it.

Torpedoed 1918

On February 21, 1918 he was granted 3 weeks home leave and embarked the Indarra en-route to England. In England his leave expired without receiving orders to return and so on April 15, 1918 he wrote to the War Office reporting this fact. Two weeks later, upon receiving orders to return to Egypt, he wrote another letter to the War Office requesting that he be allowed to not return to Egypt due to health reasons exacerbated by the hot climate. He received a one sentence reply denying his request. This was rather unfortunate because he then boarded the Troop Transport Omrah, bound for Alexandria via Marseilles. On May 12, 1918 the Omrah was torpedoed by UB52, 40 miles S.W. of Cape Spartivento, Sicily and sunk. But remarkably there was only one reported casualty, which was fortunately not him, and he arrived relatively unscathed at Alexandria on the Malwa, 5 days later.

During his adventure in the Mediterranean, on May 11, 1918, he was awarded the Territorial Decoration for long service with the Territorial Force.

He remained in command of the RAMC Base Depot, now at Kantara, but after the war had ended he was sometimes deployed for temporary duty on board Hospital Ships sailing between Egypt and Beirut.

Demobilisation in 1919

On March 28, 1919 he relinquished command of the RAMC Base Depot and was assigned to the Convalescent Depot at Boulaq, Cairo. Consequently, when he became unwell on April 4, 1919, he was admitted to the Citadel Hospital in Cairo. Whilst being treated, he wrote to the Ministry of National Service, in England, requesting a “speedy demobilisation” citing a litany of reasons but primarily his deteriorating health in Egypt’s hot climate. He also wrote to his former medical partner, Dr. J. S. Harbinson, who had already been demobilised, requesting him to contact the War Office on his behalf, which he duly did.

He was medically assessed in Cairo on April 20th and they recommended two months rest in the UK. He boarded the Hospital Ship Carisbrooke Castle at Alexandria on May 6, 1919 arriving Southampton 10 days later. Here he was admitted to the Endsleigh Palace Hospital for Officers, London for treatment. The War Office notified him that he would be demobilised when fit and instructed the hospital to schedule a medical assessment for June 12, 1919. Remarkably, on May 24th he wrote to the War Office now requesting to remain in the Royal Army Medical Corps since he felt that he had secured a move from Egypt and claiming that there was not enough work for him in his medical practice (the opposite of what Dr. Harbinson had told them a month earlier). Needless to say, his request was summarily rejected.

He was discharged from Endsleigh on June 13 and returned home, with another medical assessment scheduled for July. On July 10, 1919 he submitted an official request for a speedy demobilisation for medical officers. The War Office must have considered starting a new department just to deal with all his correspondences. Nevertheless, he was assessed at Exeter on July 28 and granted leave until September 1st. On September 4, 1919 he was medically assessed again at Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Whalley, Lancs and pronounced to be at fitness level ‘C1’. He was demobilised a week later on September 12, 1919.

Post War Years

On September 30, 1921 he resigned his commission with the Royal Army Medical Corps having attained the age limit and was granted the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

On October 20, 1939 he wrote to H.M. Secretary of State for War, offering his services, noting his prior service and stating that after the war he had been Chairman Pension Boards and Referee to the Ministry of Health. He indicated that he had been the Medical Officer on a troop ship for the last 4 years and was currently returning to England. He was 72 years old and his offer was very politely declined.

By this time he and his wife had moved to Quainton, near Aylesbury and in early 1946 he died there. Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Frankish, MB, TD was 78 years old and was survived by his wife and daughter.

2/Lt. Charles Henry Nash, RAMC (Att’d)

Charles Henry Nash was born on July 16, 1875 in Cork to the Rev. Llewellyn Charles Nash and Ellen Henrietta Nash (née Welland). Charles was the youngest of 3 boys (William Welland Nash and Sidney Dawson Nash) and had an older sister, (Henrietta May Nash), and two younger sisters, (Mary Welland Nash and Anna Florence Nash).

Charles’ mother died in 1893, when he was 18 years old, and two years later he enrolled as a first-year medical student at Queen’s College Cork, on October 28, 1895. By 1901 Charles was living with his father, who was now the Rector of Ballymartle, (near Kinsale, County Cork), his younger sister Mary, his uncle Robert Spread Nash, and a domestic servant. Charles took his final examinations under the auspices of the Scottish Conjoint Board and so when he passed, in 1903, he became LRCP (Edin.), LRCS (Edin.) and LRFPS (Glasg.).

By 1911 he had formed a medical partnership with a local doctor, (Dr. Walter John Roalfe-Cox), and was working as a General Practitioner and living in Mortimer, Berkshire with his brother Sidney, (a former Army officer and now a District Commissioner in West Africa), his sister Mary and a domestic servant. Shortly after the outbreak of war he dissolved his business partnership so that he could join the Army and was commissioned as a temporary Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps on December 28, 1914.

He was attached to the 42nd (East Lancs) Division and by August 1915 was assigned to the 1/1st East Lancs Field Ambulance at Gully Beach, Cape Helles, Gallipoli. On Augst 31st the Divisional ADMS issued orders for him to be attached to the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, replacing Major Thomas Frankish, RAMC. He remained attached to the 9th Manchesters until he reported sick to hospital on October 25, 1915. He did not return to the Battalion.

On December 28, 1915 he was promoted to temporary Captain which rank he retained until he resigned his commission on March 8, 1919 retaining the rank of Captain. In October 1917 he married Julia Phyllis Smeddle, in Durham, and after he left the Army, they settled in Porthcawl, Wales where he worked in private practice. They had 3 daughters; Phyllis Kathleen Nash (b. 1919), Dorothy Joyce Graham Nash (b.1921) and Vera Peggy Nash (b.1925). They stayed in Porthcawl until the mid-1930s when they moved to Sandhurst, Berkshire.

Captain Charles Henry Nash died on February 8, 1952. He was 71 years old.

2/Lt. George Gordon Greene Kelly

George Gordon Greene-Kelly was born on July 11, 1886 in County Dublin, Ireland. By 1901 he was attending school and living at 24 Belgrave Square, Monkstown Dublin with his widowed mother Elizabeth, his older brother Frederick William (attending Medical School) and a domestic servant.

In January 1915 he applied for a commission stating that he had been a member of his School Cadet Corps and the Planters Volunteer Mounted Corps, Malacca. He was accepted and commissioned on February 4, 1915 as a temporary Second Lieutenant with the 10th Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment).

He deployed to Gallipoli, and on October 7, 1915 was attached to the 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment along with 4 other junior officers from the Essex and South Lancashire Regiments. There is no official mention of his movements or activities at Gallipoli with the 9th Manchesters and on December 8, 1915 he was transferred and attached to the 10th Manchesters along with another subaltern, 2/Lt. Laird Kirwan, who had arrived with him on October 7.

2/Lt. Greene-Kelly remained with the 10th Manchesters as they evacuated the Gallipoli Peninsula and moved to Egypt. On March 14, 1916 he was transferred to the 126th Brigade, 42nd Division Machine Gun Company at Shalufa. He spent a week in hospital at Suez in April and on May 20th was made temporary Lieutenant. In October he was granted 5 weeks leave in England and departed Port Said on the SS Caledonian on October 13th. After his leave was over, he embarked the Indulgence in Marseilles on November 13th rejoining the Machine Gun Company in Al Mazār, Northern Sinai, on November 27th. The pursuit of the Turkish forces across the Northern Sinai proceeded without incident and the 42nd Division marched into El Arish in January 1917. After a relaxing two weeks by the sea, they were ordered back to the Suez Canal in preparation of deployment to France.

The Machine Gun Company embarked for Marseilles, at Alexandria on February 2, 1917 sailing on the HT Huntshill, disembarking on March 6th. Lt. Greene-Kelly fought with the Machine Gun Corps in France throughout 1917 taking home leave from July 8-20 and again from January 11-27, 1918. Immediately upon his return he was recalled to England leaving the Machine Gun Company on January 29, 1918. He spent the remainder of the war in England.

On November 18, 1918 he returned to France and reported to Terlincthun Chateau, Boulogne for duty as War Workers Conducting Officer with the Military Inter Allied Commission of Control. Two weeks later he was granted the rank of temporary Major while so employed. The disarmament provisions of the Armistice, in November 1918, and of the Treaty of Versailles fourteen months later were primarily carried out by the Military Inter Allied Commission of Control. He remained with them until October 21, 1921 when he resigned his commission, retaining the rank of Major, but by this time he was based in Berlin.

He remained in Berlin and started his own import / export business, Gordon Kelly Export House. On September 20, 1923 he married Paula Gertrude Karla Marie Kuhlewind and they remained in Berlin after the marriage. In 1924 he applied for an educational sponsorship from the Army for former officers who wanted to attend a business course at a London university but was rejected as he had not served in the regular forces. By 1926 they had moved to Hendon, London and they remained there until he died in December 1932.  Major George Gordon Greene-Kelly was 46 years old. He was survived by his wife, his mother and his older brother.

2/Lt. Arthur James Southcott

Arthur James Southcott was born on July 18, 1895 in Woodford, Essex to Arthur Southcott, a civil servant at the royal mint and Annie Southcott (née Pattison). He was educated at The Cooper’s Company School, in London, and by 1911 was living in Woodford with his parents, his younger brother, Walter Roy Southcott, and a domestic servant. His father passed away on January 31, 1912.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, on September 3, 1914, he left his civilian job as a shipping clerk and joined the 9th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) as a Rifleman (#3177), undergoing 3 months basic training at Crowborough and Fleet. On November 5, 1914 the 1/9th London Regiment landed at Le Havre and went into the trenches at Neuve Eglise on November 29th recording their first casualties on December 4th. On December 31st they occupied the trenches again and the following day Rifleman Southcott sprained his back and was medically evacuated to England leaving France on January 5, 1915. Back in England he was assigned to the 2/9th Battalion while he recovered and there was granted a commission as a temporary Second-Lieutenant on March 27, 1915 with the 12th (Service) Battalion, The Essex Regiment.

He deployed to Gallipoli, and on October 7, 1915 was attached to the 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment along with 4 other junior officers from the Essex and South Lancashire Regiments. There is no official mention of his movements or activities at Gallipoli save for a reference to reporting sick to hospital on December 4-8, 1915. He rejoined the Battalion on December 9th but two days later was admitted to the 17th Stationary Hospital at Cape Helles suffering from Diarrhea. He was medically evacuated to England on January 3, 1916 from Mudros sailing on the hospital ship Britannic and arrived at Southampton on January 9th, by now diagnosed with gastritis and enteritis.

He was given a month’s convalescent leave and on Feb 12, 1917 was pronounced fit for home service. A month later the Army medical board passed him fit for general service.

He deployed to France and was attached to the 10th Battalion, The Essex Regiment who at the time were part of the 53rd Brigade in 18th (Eastern) Division. They had taken heavy casualties in July at the Battle of Delville Wood and again in September at the Battle of Thiepval Ridge but on October 17, 1916 they were taking over the lines near Courcelette (S.W. of Bapaume).  The battalion war diary simply states, “No 2 Platoon of “A” Company on reaching the BAPAUME POST was knocked out by a bomb from enemy aeroplane”. But a first-hand account of the incident provides more detail:

Account of Incident of Bomb from Enemy Aeroplane on morning of 17th October – by the [3] survivors:

“On the morning of the 17th inst. we were being marched up the BAPAUME ROAD in our platoon under 2/Lt. A. J. Southcott the platoon commander. When we reached the point on the road formerly known as BAPAUME POST a very heavy bomb fell and exploded about 3 yards to the left of the centre of the platoon. This was at about 5:40am when the light was poor and there was a heavy mist issuing from the river. All the platoon were rendered casualties except ourselves. Officer (2/Lt. A. J. Southcott) wounded. Other ranks: 1 killed and 17 wounded.

We were marching at ease at the time and were singing so no one either heard the aeroplane or the noise of the bomb descending. After the explosion we immediately commenced to bandage the wounded and some 3 or 4 minutes after the explosion we saw the aeroplane hovering fairly low little distance to the right, where it dropped another bomb. There were lights and fires burning in the camps both on the right and left of the road where the bombs were dropped.”

2/Lt. Southcott was struck by a fragment of bomb shrapnel which entered the lower part of the right buttock passing through the rectum from which it passed 3 days later, which can’t have been pleasant. He was medically evacuated to England on the Asturias embarking at Le Havre on October 20 and disembarking at Southampton on the 21st where he was transported to London and admitted to Lady Mountgarret’s Convalescent Hospital for Officers. The wound became septic but healed reasonably quickly but he then developed Gastritis and Enteritis as he had before in Gallipoli. It was not until June 16, 1917 that he was finally pronounced fit for general service again whereupon he proceeded to the 27th Training Reserve Battalion, Harwich Fortress at Dovercourt, Essex.

On June 7, 1918 he suffered the humiliation of a Field General Court Martial, accused of Drunkenness at Felixstowe on May 13. He pleaded Not Guilty but was found Guilty and severely reprimanded. He relinquished his commission and left the Army on February 23, 1919 retaining the rank of Lieutenant.

In 1920 he applied to the War Office for his medals and the contact address was later amended from his mother’s home in Essex to that of the Militia Council Headquarters, in Ottowa, Canada. He officially emigrated to Canada in March 1923 and became the head clerk at an aircraft engine manufacturer called Armstrong-Siddeley, (later to become Hawker-Siddeley), in Ottowa. Lt. Arthur James Southcott died suddenly on June 31, 1935 and is buried in the Beechwood Cemetery, Ottowa. He was 39 years old.

2/Lt. Laird Kirwan

Laird Kirwan was born on April 14, 1894 in London to John William Kirwan, a successful wholesale Jeweler, and Caroline Marian Kirwan (née Colins). He was the youngest of six children although his older brother Howard had died shortly after birth when he was just 7 months old. In 1911 he was living with his parents and four older sisters in Islington.

One month after the outbreak of war, on September 5, 1914, Laird joined the Honorable Artillery Company as a Private (#1931) and was assigned to Number 2 Company, 2nd Battalion. He was granted a commission as a temporary Second Lieutenant with the 10th Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) on January 26, 1915.

He deployed to Gallipoli, and on October 7, 1915 was attached to the 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment along with 4 other junior officers from the Essex and South Lancashire Regiments. There is no official mention of his movements or activities at Gallipoli with the 9th Manchesters and on December 8, 1915 he was transferred and attached to the 10th Manchesters along with another subaltern, 2/Lt. George Greene-Kelly, who had arrived with him on October 7.

2/Lt. Kirwan remained with the 10th Manchesters as they evacuated the Gallipoli Peninsula and moved to Egypt. On March 30, 1916 he was transferred and attached to the 6th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment who were in Mesopotamia and formed part of the 38th (Lancashire) Infantry Brigade of the 13th (Western) Division. 2/Lt. Kirwan embarked at Port Suez on April 9th and disembarked at Basra on April 24th. This was 5 days before the fall of Kut Al Amara which no doubt delayed his passage up river to join his new battalion. Consequently, he spent some time at Basra before joining the Battalion at Sheikh Sa’ad on June 19th where he was immediately put in command of a company, relinquishing command 5 days later. On July 9, 1916 he went sick to hospital where he stayed for a week before rejoining the battalion.

After the debacle of Kut-Al-Amara, Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude, formerly commander of the 6th South Lancs’ own 13th (Western) Division, was made commander of all Allied forces in Mesopotamia in late July 1916. He embarked upon a 7-month period of re-organizing and re-supplying his forces while steadily improving the lines of communication and medical and port infrastructure at Basra. In December 1916 he launched a new campaign whose goal was to capture Baghdad, which he did on March 11, 1917.

Shortly after the start of the campaign, on January 11, 1917, 2/Lt. Kirwan was transferred to “G” Stokes Mortar Battery and periodically served as second in command of the battery throughout his time with the battalion, temporarily assuming the rank of Lieutenant during those periods. Over the next 3 months the battalion took part in a series of minor battles including the capture of the Hai Salient, the capture of Dahra Bend, the Second Battle of Kut, the passage of the Diyala River and the fall of Baghdad. A month after it was all over, on May 16, he proceeded to Basra to commence home leave to England sailing on the transport Sofala. While in England, the War Office extended his leave and so he did not return to Basra until September 26, 1917 sailing from Bombay to Basra on the transport Torilla.

By this time the battalion was north of Baghdad at a small town called As Sindiyah, on the East bank of the Tigris and it took 2/Lt. Kirwan two weeks to reach them, rejoining the “G” Stokes Mortar Battery on October 9th at Tuwair (an even smaller town on the West side of the Tigris). As was not uncommon, a few weeks after returning from leave the change of climate and harsh living conditions caused him to report sick to hospital on November 25th and after a month in a field hospital went to an Officers’ Convalescent Hospital in Baghdad where he remained until December 28, 1917, rejoining the battalion at As Sindiyah. The commander of the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force, Lt.-General Sir Stanley Maude was not so lucky, he contracted cholera around the same time and died in Baghdad on November 18.

2/Lt. Kirwan remained with the battalion until August 1, 1918 when he was attached to the 31st Wing of the Royal Air Force as an “Observer” joining the 30th Squadron at Baqubah, North West of Bhagdad. Three weeks later, on August 20, 1918, his Army service record states that he was “Accidentally Killed” on flying duty but his RAF record was subsequently amended to state that he in fact died of wounds sustained on flying duty, and was designated a “Battle Casualty”.

2/Lt. Laird Kirwan was 24 years old. He is buried in the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq which is also the final resting place of Sir Stanley Maude.

2/Lt. George Frederick Barker

George Frederick Barker was born in 1884, in Brentwood Essex to Frederick Inkerman Barker, (a blacksmith and farrier) and Kate Barker (née Monsear). George was the oldest of four children and the only son. His father died in 1903 and by 1911 he was living with his widowed mother and three sisters and employed as a school teacher for the Poplar Guardians (a poor house which built a training school for around 700 pupils in 1906/07 at Hulton in Essex). He was reportedly a fine athlete playing both football and cricket at a high amateur level in Brentwood.

He was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on December 5, 1914 and underwent his basic training with the 12th Battalion, The Essex Regiment. During this time, in the latter half of 1915, he married Lydia Laura Horwood. He deployed to Gallipoli, and on October 7, 1915 was attached to the 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment along with 4 other junior officers from the Essex and South Lancashire Regiments.

There is no official mention of his movements or activities at Gallipoli save for a reference to reporting sick to hospital on December 8, 1915, most likely the 17th Stationary Hospital at Cape Helles. He remained in Hospital for six weeks until he was medically evacuated to Malta, disembarking on January 21, 1916 and diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever. There he was admitted to the Blue Sisters Hospital the following day. Two weeks later, on February 5th, he embarked on the Hospital Ship Aquitania bound for England via Naples.

On September 1, 1916 he was promoted to acting Lieutenant in the Training Reserve and remained so until February 16, 1917 when he relinquished his acting rank of Lieutenant and reverted to temporary 2nd Lieutenant. A week later he joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The Essex Regiment at Felixstowe, on February 22, 1917. The 3rd Essex was a depot and training unit and he remained there until he was passed fit for active service. Two months later he sailed to France and joined the 2nd Battalion, The Essex Regiment on April 22, 1917 while they were in billets at Beaufort-Blavincourt, a few kilometers West of Arras. The timing was not good as the Battalion was engaged in the Second Battle of Arras and both sides were suffering heavy casualties.

A week after his arrival, the Battalion moved into the front lines at 8pm on April 30, 1917. There they were subjected to enemy artillery and sniper fire and took several casualties. On May 3rd they were directly involved in an attack against the German positions and suffered 5 killed, 96 wounded and 106 missing other ranks with 2 officers killed, 8 wounded and 4 missing. The following day the battalion moved back to the support line. On May 10th they moved towards the front lines again when they supported an attack by the 11th Brigade. By this time the Battalion HQ was located in a cellar at Fampoux. On May 12th they were in the front lines again supporting an attack by the 10th and 11th Brigades. The battalion started to pull out during the evening and was fully relieved at midnight. The scale of the battalion’s casualties over the past month is made evident by an excerpt from the war diary entry for May 12:

“Only 4 Officers came out of the line with the Battalion out of 25 who had been with them this tour. 2 Officers wounded. 2/Lt. G. F. Barker killed.”

Temporary Second Lieutenant George Frederick Barker was killed in action on May 12, 1917 at Fampoux, France. He was 33 years old. His wife was notified by telegram 6 days later:

War Office Telegram to Mrs. Lydia Laura Barker

He is buried in the Saint Nicolas British Cemetery, Arras and commemorated at the Ilford War Memorial Hall.

1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in France 1917-18

March 1917:

On the 4th March, 1917 the 9th Battalion embarked on HMT Arcadian bound for France. They disembarked at Marseilles on 11th March and moved by train to Pont Remy, arriving there on the 14th March. From Pont Remy the 42nd Division was moved to an area ten miles east of Amiens, there the 9th Battalion was issued with rifles and steel helmets. They began training on the tactics of trench warfare, trench digging, route marches were also order of the day.

1/9th Manchesters France March 1917

On the 21st March, 1917 Private ARNOLD PEARSON (351087 formerly 2787) was killed in action. He is commemorated at Pozieres Memorial.

April 1917:

The Battalion moved to Haquaix on 18th April, and on the evening of 22nd April they took over a section of the front line and support line at Epehy; the first time they had been in the front lines since Gallipoli.

1/9th Manchesters France April 1917

April Casualties:

Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname Died Cause
Pte. 351494 WILLIAM NALLY 24-Apr KIA
Pte. 351324 JOHN W JEVONS 25-Apr KIA
Pte. 351625 HARRY LORD 25-Apr KIA
Pte. 352320 SAMUEL LORD 25-Apr KIA
Pte. 350582 HENRY McCLUSKEY 29-Apr KIA
Pte. 350809 JAMES McDONALD 29-Apr KIA
Pte. 351976 ROBERT CAMPBELL 29-Apr KIA
1/9th Manchesters Casualties April 1917

May 1917:

The Battalion moved to billets in Marquaix; the same ones they had occupied earlier in April. They moved into the front line on May 5th. On the evening of May 6th, 2/Lt Cooke was mortally wounded.  The Battalion went into reserve on the evening of May 9th, moving to Templeux Quarry, and returning to the line again on May 13th. They were relieved on May 17th and marched to billets at Villers Faucon.

On May 19th they moved to Bertincourt, via Equancourt, and went into billets. They moved into the reserve line at Havrincourt Wood on May 21st and spent their time digging and consolidating trenches. Two days after 2/Lt. Cooke died of wounds on May 24th, Pte. Harry Holden was awarded the Military Medal, most likely for carrying him back to safety.

On the evening of May 29, 1917 a patrol composed of Lt. Phillip Sydney Marsden and 3 privates was fired on by the enemy. Lt. Marsden and one of the men were hit, both in the abdomen. The two remaining privates carried back the two wounded men 300 yards under fire and then obtained a stretcher and some assistance. Lt. Marsden died an hour after he was brought in and the private some hours later.

1/9th Manchesters France May 1917

May Casualties:

Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname Died Cause
Pte. 350681 JEREMY BARKER 6-May KIA
Sgt. 351175 THOMAS H LEE 6-May DoW
Pte. 350431 WILLIAM HANDLEY 7-May KIA
Pte. 350627 STANLEY PEARSON 7-May KIA
Pte. 350840 HERBERT CHRISTIAN 7-May KIA
L/Cpl. 351697 STANLEY GREEN 7-May KIA
Pte. 352014 JAMES HOWARD 7-May KIA
Pte. 352409 THOMAS HARRISON 7-May KIA
Pte. 350297 JOSEPH GEE 8-May DoW
Pte. 352432 FREDERICK CLARKSON 8-May KIA
Pte. 351648 FRANK SHEPHERD 9-May KIA
Pte. 352238 EDWARD SKIRVIN 9-May DoW
Pte. 351774 THOMAS NORMAN 10-May DoW
Pte. 351372 ROBERT FOSTER 14-May DoW
Pte. 350379 ROBERT AL THOMAS 15-May KIA
Pte. 350298 HERBERT POTTER 29-May KIA
Pte. 350454 TOM FIELDING 30-May DoW
Lt. CHARLES E COOKE 24-May DoW
Lt. PHILLIP S MARSDEN 30-May KiA
1/9th Manchesters Casualties May 1917

June 1917:

The Battalion was in the line at Havrincourt Wood at the start of the month being relieved on June 5th and moving to Ruyaulcourt. They moved back into the line at Havrincourt Wood from June 12-16, moving to Ytres when relieved. They spent time training at Ytres before returning to the reserve line at Havrincourt Wood on June 21st.

The Battalion remained in the line for the remainder of the month and whilst there all companies were engaged in the digging of firing and communication trenches at night under cover of darkness.

1/9th Manchesters France June 1917

June Casualties:

Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname Died Cause
L/Cpl. 350567 THOMAS ASHCROFT 3-Jun KIA
Cpl. 350351 JOSEPH WILDE 3-Jun KIA
Pte. 352196 WILLIAM RAWSON 20-Jun KIA
Cpl. 350520 ARTHUR SPURRETT 26-Jun KIA
Pte. 351936 ARTHUR HAGGER 30-Jun KIA
1/9th Manchesters Casualties June 1917

July 1917:

The Battalion went into a reserve area on 9th July, undertaking various training exercises and rest.

July Casualties:

Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname Died Cause
Cpl. 350512 RAYMOND GIBSON 3-Jul KIA
Pte. 351171 ELLIS BOWKER 3-Jul KIA
Pte. 351716 TOM MOSS 3-Jul DoW
Pte. 352313 STANLEY BUCKLEY 3-Jul KIA
Pte. 375895 BERTRAM ATKIN 4-Jul KIA
Pte. 400212 JOHN MURPHY 23-Jul DoW
Pte. 400602 JOHN H MARSH 23-Jul KIA
Pte. 400720 ALFRED A OVERTON 23-Jul DoW
2/Lt. BERTIE FREEDMAN 3-Jul DoW
1/9th Manchesters Casualties July 1917

August 1917:

On the 22nd August they were entrained, bound for Ypres, and suffered only one death, Private JOSEPH REYNER (350880) who died of wounds on August 30, 1917 and is buried at Ruyaulcourt Military Cemetery.

1/9th Manchesters Casualties Aug 1917

September 1917:

In September the 42nd Division took over a sector almost a mile in width, enduring appalling conditions due to bad weather and constant heavy enemy shellfire.

September Casualties:

Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname Died Cause
Pte. 351748 CYRIL J WELFORD 1-Sep KIA
Pte. 352074 WILLIAM BRADBURY 1-Sep KIA
Pte. 352672 HARRY LUNN 2-Sep KIA
Pte. 350646 GEORGE ROBSON 3-Sep KIA
Pte. 352013 MICHAEL ROGAN 5-Sep KIA
Pte. 376856 JOSEPH E SELLERS 6-Sep KIA
Pte. 51426 WILLIAM SINCLAIR 11-Sep KIA
Pte. 34276 SETH WALLEY 12-Sep KIA
Pte. 352239 HERBERT WOOD 12-Sep KIA
Pte. 351685 JOSEPH LINDLEY 13-Sep KIA
Pte. 350290 THOMAS GASKELL 14-Sep KIA
Pte. 35481 JAMES W SMITH 14-Sep KIA
Pte. 51422 GEORGE BELL 14-Sep KIA
Pte. 350993 STANLEY STRUTT 14-Sep KIA
Cpl. 350522 WILLIAM SMITH 15-Sep KIA
Pte. 376681 FRANK DYSON 16-Sep DoW
C.S.M 350051 WILLIAM BIRCHALL 25-Sep DoW
1/9th Manchesters Casualties Sept 1917

The 9th battalion left the front line at the end of September and took over the coastal defence at the Nieuport front, under constant shellfire and aerial attack. In December the battalion went into the line near Bethune with the 10th battalion.

During this period the following casualties were recorded:

Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname Died Cause
Pte. 50293 SIDNEY WATSON 24-Oct KIA
Pte. 351696 JOHN H MOORES 24-Oct KIA
Pte. 351732 WILLIAM BOURNE 24-Oct KIA
1/9th Manchesters Casualties Oct 1917
Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname Died Cause
Pte. 351273 WILLIAM LEECH 3-Nov KIA
Pte. 351909 THOMAS BLAZE 3-Nov KIA
Pte. 351224 ELLIS HIBBERT 6-Nov DoW
Pte. 350869 WALTER LEECH 8-Nov DoW
Pte. 350538 THOMAS BUTLER 12-Dec KIA
1/9th Manchesters Casualties Nov 1917

1918
The battalion moved to Gorre on the 24th January where trench warfare continued with raids from both sides. In a raid on the 11th February, 1918 the battalion went over the top in a successful action in the sector opposite Festubert, with artillery stopping any German escape or reinforcements.

On the 15th March the battalion was withdrawn to the Busnes/Burbure/Fouquieres area. The army was going through a dramatic reconstruction at this time with brigades being reduced from 4 to 3 battalions. Some 260 officers and men of the 9th joined with the 2/9th while 210 others joined the 1/5th and the 1/6th. Other men were used to supply drafts to under strength battalions, like the 1st Notts & Derby Regiment.

Those left in the battalion remained as a training cadre. In August 1918 they absorbed the 13th Manchesters and were later reconstituted as the 9th battalion. They ended the war in Soire le Chateau near Avesnes.

Note: Much of the original text for 1918 was taken from the www.themanchesters.org and is their copyright.

Commanding Officers
A list of the Battalion’s Commanding Officers in World War One can be found here.

1/9th Manchesters 1914-15

1/9th Manchesters 1916-17

 

1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in Egypt 1916-17

The 9th Battalion left Mudros in early January and landed at Alexandria on January 17, 1916. They were taken by train from Alexandria to Cairo and from Cairo Station to Mena Camp by tram. Mena Camp was situated about 10 miles West of the centre of Cairo just on the outskirts of the city and took its name from Mena House, an old hotel located near the Giza pyramids.

A week later they moved to Tel-el-Kebir which is located about 68 miles north-north-east of Cairo and 25 miles West of Ismailia. Shortly after, they moved to El Shallufa on the Suez Canal, making camp on the East of the canal. On February 10th they moved again to El Kabrit, about 20 miles north of Suez where they remained for some time.

Map: Battalion Locations January to June 1916

January – June was spent rebuilding the Division by the addition of new recruits from England and soldiers rejoining from hospital to replace those lost in Gallipoli and the longest serving Territorials whose time had expired. The battalion was engaged in improving the canal fortifications needed to protect the Southern route across the Sinai from raiding parties (since no large army could cross quickly without first building rail and water supplies).

There were 3 routes across the Sinai; the Northern Route which covered El Arish to B’ir Qatia to El Qantara (known as Kantara to the Allies); the Central Route (which followed the Ismailia to Maghara Road), and the Southern Route. Militarily, each route had a base of operations which were El Qantara, El Ferdan and Shallufa respectively. Since the central and southern routes were impassible to a large force without first building supply lines these two routes were defended by the Allies from small raiding parties through a three tier defence of an outpost approximately 7 miles out from the canal, with a second outpost 3 1/2 miles out and a bridgehead at the canal itself. Much effort was spent consolidating these outposts and linking them together via signals and other communications.

Beginning in January 1916, a new railway was constructed, by the British and Egyptian allied ‘Egyptian Expeditionary Force’ (EEF), from El Qantara to Romani, and was planned to continue eastward through the Sinai to El Arish and Rafa on the border with the Ottoman Empire. A water pipeline and telegraph line were simultaneously constructed along the same route by the Royal Engineers.

April (Suez):

In April the Battalion moved south to Suez and began to engage in divisional training and route marches. On April 26th the Battalion suffered 2 fatalities and several wounded during a training exercise when a bomb exploded accidentally. And the next day a man was accidentally killed when he was shot as another man cleaned his weapon which accidentally discharged.

June (Abū al ‘Urūq):

By the end of June, 17 Officers and around 500 Other Ranks had joined (or rejoined) the Battalion. The Battalion was then effectively back to full strength. In late June the Division moved to El Ferdan, and then to Abū al ‘Urūq, to assist with the fortifications of the central route since they were now fully recovered and acclimated to the harsh desert conditions and summer heat. Fortification work and training continued throughout July until the 23rd.

July (El Qantara):

In July, intelligence reports indicated a large Turkish force, led by German Officers, was making its way Westwards from El Arish along the Northern Route. 8th Corp, to which the 42nd Division belonged, was transformed into a Mobile Column and sent to meet this force which was moving towards the Suez Canal.

On July 25th, the Battalion marched overnight from Abū al ‘Urūq to El Ferdan, so that they could cross the canal, and then the following night made their way to El Qantara (and on to Hill 40), via Al Ballāḩ. Soldiers considered not fit enough for the upcoming difficult desert marches were left at El Qantara. At this point the Battalion was re-equipped to operate as a Mobile Column.

Map: Battalion Locations July 1916 to March 1917

 

August (Pelusium):

On Aug 4th the Battalion marched to Gilban, which was a station on the newly constructed railway along the Northern Route. The rest of the Division entrained to Hill 70 from where the 127th Bde marched across the desert to support the Anzacs at the Battle of Romani. The 126th Bde moved to Pelusium by train on August 8th where they were held in Corps reserve. The Battalion remained at Pelusium for the rest of August engaged in outpost duty, training and route marching.

September (Oghratina):

After the allied victory at Romani, defence turned into offence and the railway and water pipes were slowly extended eastwards.  The 42nd Division was pushed out ahead to protect the new construction from raiders who were mainly Bedouin tribesmen allied with the Turks.

The Battalion marched to Romani on Sept 9th and then on to Er Rabah the following day and Oghratina, which was considered to be the outpost line, on the 11th. On Sept 21st they moved into reserve at Hod en Negiliat, (a “hod” is a plantation of date palms). Battalion went back into the line at Oghratina on October 2nd and remained there until October 24th during which time they were engaged in training and route marches once again.

October & November (Bîr el-‛Abd):

In October the railway reached Bîr el-‛Abd (30 miles East of Romani) and the Battalion marched there from Oghratina on October 25th. In November it reached Bîr Salmâna and Abu Tilûl before arriving at Al Mazār.

The Battalion marched to Kilo 60 (Bîr Salmâna) on November 9th and then on to Kilo 100 (Abu Tilûl) the following day. Two weeks later, the Battalion marched to Al Mazār on November 24th. Here the Battalion spent 3 days being disinfected using a mobile system sent out by rail especially for the troops who had been living under canvas since arriving in Egypt.

December (Al Mazār):

In December an offensive was launched against the Turks at El Arish but by the time the Corps was ready to engage, the Turks had fled. The Battalion marched to Kilo 128 on December 20th in preparation, but were ordered to return to Al Mazār the following day.

1917 (Moascar):

The 42nd Division marched into El Arish in mid January 1917 and spent two weeks there by the sea. But at the end of January they were ordered back to the Suez Canal in preparation for their imminent deployment to France. The Division arrived at El Qantara by train in early February and then marched to camp at Moascar. They left Moascar for Alexandria by train on March 1st to sail for France on March 4th.

Casualties:

Throughout their time in Egypt, during 1916 and 1917, there was little danger from hostile forces, their main threat being sickness and disease brought on by unsanitary conditions and the harsh summer climate of the Sinai desert.

Rank No. 1st Name MI Surname When How
Pte. 2088 WILLIAM H COOKE1 19-Jan Died
Pte. 1744 ANTHONY SHERIDAN 25-Feb Sickness
Pte. 3260 JAMES W MANSFIELD1 7-Apr Sickness
Pte. 2327 THOMAS SMITH 26-Apr Bomb
Pte. 3244 ERNEST CHADDERTON 26-Apr Bomb
Pte. 3483 JOHN HEGGINBOTTOM 27-Apr Shot
Pte. 3029 TOM A CARR 2-May Died
Pte. 2341 PERCY NICHOLSON 13-May Died
Pte. 3987 HARRY H KERRICK 28-Oct Sickness

Note 1: These men died and were buried in the UK (St. Paul’s Church Stalybridge and Dukinfield Cemetery respectively) and so it is highly unlikely that they served in Egypt in 1916.

On March 4, 1917, the same day that the Battalion embarked for France, the final Egyptian casualty, Private JAMES KERR (1984), died of pneumonia in Hospital in Ismailia.  He was buried at the Ismailia War Memorial Cemetery.

Honors:

During 1916 several Officers and men were officially recognized for their long exemplary service and for individual acts of bravery in Gallipoli as prior recommendations worked their way through the honours process.

On January 28, 1916 the following men of the 1/9th Manchester Regiment were mentioned in despatches for their part in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard.

Second Lieutenant (temporary Captain) O. J. Sutton
Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw, V.C.
Second Lieutenant C. E. Cooke.
No. 180 Sergeant S. Bayley.
No. 2103 Corporal T. Pickford.
No. 2148 Lance-Corporal S. Pearson.
No. 1294 Private F. Chevalier.
No. 1160 Drummer H. Broadhurst.

In February, information was received that Capt. O. J. SUTTON and 2/Lieut. E. COOKE had each been awarded the Military Cross, and L/Cpl. PEARSON and Cpl. PICKFORD the D.C.M.

In August the Battalion received orders which in part contained the following entries:

Qtr. Mr. & Hon Major CONNERY                – awarded Military Cross
No 1792               L/Cpl. DAVIES A.               – awarded D.C.M.
No 1623               Sgt. GREENHALGH J.     – awarded D.C.M.
No 1083               Pte. LITTLEFORD S.       – awarded D.C.M.

1792 L/Cpl. A. DAVIES, DCM
For conspicuous gallantry when covering a retirement under a very heavy fire at a few yards range. [Gazetted June 21, 1916 for the actions of December 19, 1915]

1623 Sgt. JAMES GREENHALGH, DCM
For conspicuous gallantry when covering a retirement under a very heavy fire at a few yards range. [Gazetted June 21, 1916 for the actions of December 19, 1915]

1083 Pte. SAMUEL LITTLEFORD, DCM
For conspicuous gallantry in flinging a lighted bomb over the parapet, and thus probably saving many casualties. He was himself wounded in the arm by the explosion. [Gazetted June 21, 1916]

Desert Glossary:

Sabkha:                A salt flat with a thin crust and very muddy underneath.

Hod:                      A planting of palm trees, a palm grove.

B’ir:                        A well from which water can be pumped to the surface.

Kathīb:                 A large sand dune or other elevation less than 300m.

 

1/9th Manchesters 1914-15

1/9th Manchesters 1917-18

Capt. Richard Percy Lewis

Richard Percy Lewis was born on March 10, 1874 in Paddington, London to Richard and Eliza Mary (née Kinglake) Lewis. Richard Lewis was a successful barrister and his son Richard Percy Lewis had an older sister, Louisa Mary Kinglake Lewis, and a younger brother, John Alexander Kinglake Clayton Lewis. In 1881 the family was living in Gloucester Place, Paddington with four live-in domestic servants.

He was educated at Winchester College (1887-92) and then University College, Oxford (1894-96) and was said to be one of the finest wicket-keepers of his generation, playing for Oxford University, Surrey and Middlesex.

Lt Col Richard Percy Lewis

During the Boer War he was commissioned as Second-Lieutenant in the 14th Middlesex (Inns of Court) Rifle Volunteer Corps, on August 4, 1900. In October 24, 1900 he was awarded a commission in the Devonshire Regiment, a line regiment when another second-Lieutenant was killed in action, thus creating a vacancy. He was promoted to Lieutenant on April 4, 1903.

After the war, he was attached to the 1st Battalion King’s African Rifles January 12, 1904 to June 24, 1907, and took part in the Nandi Expedition of 1905-1906 where he was mentioned in despatches (of Edgar G. Harrison, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Nandi Field Force, February 28, 1906).

Lieutenant R. P. Lewis, (The Devonshire Regiment), 1st K.A.R., as Signalling Officer to the Field Force, by his keenness and hard work was able with slender means and in spite of many difficulties to obtain excellent results. Many of the signallers employed were recruits with but little training, but even with such material Lieutenant Lewis was able to keep numerous posts going and to link up the various units of the force by helio and lamp.

After his spell in Africa, he was seconded for service with the Egyptian Army, on 20th August 1908, and stationed as an intelligence officer in Cairo. Whilst serving in Egypt he suffered a succession of personal blows as his sister, brother and mother all died in 1911, 1912 and 1913 respectively, (his father having died many years before). Meanwhile his career progressed and he was promoted to Captain on December 16, 1911.

The 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment landed in Egypt on September 25, 1914 and spent the next six months training for war. They landed at Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 but were short of senior officers, two majors having died in Egypt.

Captain Lewis joined the 42nd Division in Gallipoli on May 31, 1915 and was initially posted to the 10th Battalion Manchester Regiment but four days later, on June 4th, he was made a temporary Major and attached to the 1/9th Battalion.  He was wounded about a month later, on July 6th, and subsequently left the 9th at that time.  But during his short spell with them he was involved in the bloodiest month of the Gallipoli campaign for the 9th Battalion when they were involved in two separate bayonet charges against the Turks.

On November 4, 1916 he was appointed Brigade-Major, leaving the position on April 24, 1917. And on May 8, 1917 was made acting Lieutenant-Colonel while commanding the 10th Battalion Manchester Regiment. He was not to hold this position long because he died of wounds at Ypres on September 9, 1917 during a heavy bombardment between the village of Frezenberg and Westhoek. He is buried in Grave I.A.57 of the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

“It was during one such bombardment that Lt-Colonel Lewis was killed. Battalion HQ was housed in a cellar of a ruined farm house known as Kit and Kat. The position lay on what in more peaceful times had been the minor road running between Frezenberg and Westhoek. Lewis was hit by a shell splinter when giving orders to a runner and died shortly afterwards. His body was taken back to Ypres and buried in the burgeoning cemetery near to the tumbled central square.”

Excerpted from “Amateur Soldiers” by K. W. Mitchinson. ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0951809891.

Perhaps because he no longer had any living immediate family members, he made a number of bequests to the Devonshire Regiment including £2,000 for the “benefit and comfort of the officers and men during the war, and thereafter for the widows of the men”.  The rest he left to his cousin Evelyn, the daughter of his mother’s younger sister. Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Percy Lewis was 43 years old.

Lieutenant William Thomas Forshaw

William Thomas Forshaw was born in Barrow-in-Furness on April 20, 1890. His father, Thomas Forshaw, was an engineering pattern maker and by 1915 had become the head foreman pattern maker at Vickers Naval Shipyard in Barrow.

William Thomas Forshaw, V.C.
From The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division; by Frederick P. Gibbon, published 1920.

A pattern-maker was a highly skilled job, their task was to make wooden replicas (so called patterns) of a finished product. This required engineering, joinery and carving skills coupled with precision and experience in the manufacturing process. From the patterns, a sand mould was made and then iron was poured into the mould to form the finished product. By 1911, William’s younger brother, Frank Forshaw, was an apprentice engineering pattern maker at Vickers and was later employed at Vickers’ London office as a draughtsman.

William’s father, Thomas Forshaw, was also a locally well-known Rugby Union three-quarter playing for Barrow in his younger years, (the position normally filled by the fastest players in the team). William Forshaw inherited his father’s speed and strength and was a good all round athlete, playing Rugby and Tennis and competing in field athletics meetings at school and college. He ran in the final of the 100 yards sprint at the Westminster College Inter-Year Sports competition in 1909,1 competed in the Weight Throw competition at London Inter-Collegiate Sports meetings and won a solid silver champagne cup at the Territorial sports day, on Boxing Day, 1914 at the Khedivial Sporting Club, Cairo.

Khedivial Sporting Club Member Pass
Copyright Imperial War Museum

William was educated at Dalton Road Wesleyan School, and later at Holker Street School, from where he won a scholarship for the Barrow Municipal Secondary School, (1900-1906). At 18 he entered Wesleyan Westminster Training College, (1908-1910), and studied in London for two years before returning home to prepare for, and sit, his inter B.Sc. exam 12 months later. While completing his studies he taught evening classes at his former secondary school and at the Barrow Technical School. Curiously, while he was teaching at the Barrow Technical School he taught a small group of Turkish military officers who were stationed in Barrow to monitor the construction of a naval warship for the Ottoman Government.2

After he passed his intermediate B.Sc. he obtained a permanent teaching position at Dallas Road School, Lancaster, and also taught an evening class at the Storey Institute. William was then hired to teach Physics and Mathematics at the North Manchester Preparatory School for the Manchester Grammar School, at Higher Broughton, and consequently moved to Manchester.

William was a keen amateur singer and was a member of Mr. Aldous’ prize winning choir while he was teaching in Lancaster and joined the Ashton Operatic Society after he moved to Manchester, appearing in the comic opera the “Duchess of Dantzic” at the Ashton Empire Hippodrome in February 1914. Newspaper reports indicate that William was still performing publicly in the 1920’s after his return to England from Egypt.

The 9th Manchesters

Forshaw joined the Ashton Territorials primarily due to his friendship with George Makin, a fellow teacher at the North Manchester Preparatory School, and fellow member of the Ashton Operatic Society. George, and his older brother Frederick Arthur Makin, both joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment as second lieutenants in 1913 after serving as cadets in the Officers Training Corps of Manchester University. Forshaw was himself commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 9th Battalion on March 13, 1914, three months after his friend George joined. Forshaw’s connection to the Makin family was evidently quite strong because he was staying with Richard Harold Makin (the middle of the three Makin brothers and fellow member of the Ashton Operatic Society) on a private visit to Ashton in October 1915 when he received notice to proceed immediately to London to receive his Victoria Cross medal from the King.

After war broke out, William sailed with the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment to Egypt in September 1914 and on November 13, 1914 was promoted to Lieutenant along with four of his brother officers. In Egypt, Forshaw drew the short straw and instead of commanding an infantry platoon was instead assigned as the assistant Quartermaster under the leadership of Major M. H. Connery.

Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant George Boocock indicated in an interview with the Ashton Reporter that Forshaw filled that position “for practically nine months” before moving into a combat roll with A Company. This implies that he switched sometime in late June 1915, probably as a result of the casualties the battalion registered that month. This timing is corroborated by an article in the Ashton Reporter that indicates Lt. A.W.F. Connery became assistant quartermaster, (replacing Forshaw), after Lieut. Handforth took over command of “C” company on June 28. In fact, by the end of June 1915 the 1/9th Battalion was down to half the number of officers who deployed to Gallipoli from Egypt having lost 16 Officers in Gallipoli killed, wounded or sick and had replaced them with just one junior officer.3 Seeking to boost their low numbers, 4 new junior officers from the 10th South Lancs and 11th Yorks & Lancs Regiments were temporarily assigned to them on July 2nd and 5 officers from the 2/9th Manchester Regiment joined on July 22nd but despite these additions the battalion had lost another six officers by the end of July.4

The battalion moved into the trenches on July 2nd and remained there (spending 4 days in the firing line) until they were relieved and returned to bivouac on the 18th. Consequently, by early August, Lieut. Forshaw had spent just over two weeks of time in the trenches, under relatively quiet conditions, before he was once again called upon to lead his men at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard where he won the Victoria Cross.

W. T. Forshaw's Victoria Cross Citation
London Gazette, September 9, 1915

When Forshaw rejoined the battalion on the morning of August 9th he was badly bruised in his side from shrapnel, weak from exhaustion, with no voice and suffering from headaches and problems with his vision. Initially he was prescribed rest but after a few days with little improvement regimental records indicate that Forshaw was medically evacuated to hospital in Cairo on August 25, 1915.

Lt. W. T. Forshaw in Cairo 1915
Copyright Imperial War Museum

Staff Nurse Mollie S. Lee-Heppel joined the Queen Alexandria’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve), (Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R)), in late August 1914 and although she was initially assigned to Caterham Military Hospital, Surrey, by 1915 she had been re-assigned to work on the Hospital Ship Goorkha.

HS Goorkha
Built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6287grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots.

Meanwhile, William Forshaw had been recovering in hospital in Cairo but by mid-September had cabled his parents “Doing well: may come home”.  William was invalided back to the UK from Egypt on His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Goorkha,5 embarking at Alexandria on September 26, 1915 and arriving at Southampton in the early hours of Friday October 8th. It was on this two week voyage where he met and fell in love with Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel.

Captain Forshaw and unidentified QAIMNS Staff Nurse on the Hospital Ship Goorkha, 1915
Photo Courtesy of Stephen Snelling

After arriving in the UK, Lt. Forshaw left the Goorkha. Spending the night, and making a speech, at his old school, Westminster College, before returning to his parents’ home at Barrow-in-Furness, arriving there on Tuesday evening. Needless to say, Lt. Forshaw was heavily engaged with public appearances in the Northwest throughout October and November at Barrow, Ashton, Manchester, Lancaster and Southport. The newspapers of the time dubbed him the “Cigarette VC” for the fact that he had constantly smoked cigarettes throughout the 41 hour ordeal, using them to light the fuses of the 800 improvised bombs they had thrown, which were made of jam tins filled with explosive and small pieces of scrap metal.

Date Forshaw’s Activity
Fri, Oct 8 Gave a speech and spent the night at Westminster College.
Tue, Oct 12 Arrived at his parents’ home in Barrow in the evening.
Wed, Oct 13 Visited Barrow Secondary School and was later received by the Mayor of Barrow.
Thu, Oct 14 Interviewed by the Guardian Newspaper.
Sat, Oct 16 Private visit to Ashton staying with R.H. Makin.
Mon, Oct 18 Investiture with the King at Buckingham Palace.
Wed, Oct 27 Given the freedom of the city of Barrow and presented with a Sword of Honour. Was later that day presented with watch, card case and binoculars by Barrow Secondary School.

Date Forshaw’s Activity
Fri, Oct 29 Visit to North Manchester Preparatory School and presented with an illuminated address and a silver tea service.
Sat, Oct 30 Visit to Ashton-under-Lyne. Awarded Freedom of the Borough and presented with a scroll in a polished silver casket.
Fri, Nov 5 Visit to Southport and received by the Mayoress. Dinner with the Mayor and speech to the cadets. Note that the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment were in training at Southport and Forshaw’s good friend Capt. George Makin was with them.
Fri, Nov 20 Attended a dinner of the Westminster Club in his honor. At the Holborn Restaurant, London.
Mon, Nov 22 H. S. Goorkha, having earlier docked at Southampton on the 19th, underwent repairs. Medical staff disembarked.
Wed, Nov 24 Visit to Lancaster and sang with Mr. Aldous’ choir in the evening at the Mayoress’ fund raiser for the war.
Mon, Nov 29 Medical staff re-embark on the H. S. Goorkha.

Marriage

With much of the initial fuss behind him, on November 20, 1915 Forshaw was back in London when the Westminster Club held a dinner in his honour at the Holborn Restaurant. Meanwhile, the Goorkha had arrived back at Southampton on November 19th and from November 22-29 the medical staff disembarked while the ship underwent repairs. There can be little doubt that Lt. Forshaw and Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel spent much of that week together, possibly traveling to Lancaster together and meeting his parents, and sometime during that week, he proposed to her.

Shortly after she re-boarded the Goorkha, on December 4, 1915, Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel wrote a letter to her direct supervisor, Matron Christopherson6, requesting permission to marry and to be allowed to continue working onboard the Goorkha. The Matron and the Medical C.O. (Lt.-Col. Haig, IMS7) both agreed, but the final decision was to be made by the military authorities in England. Although they gave permission for the wedding, they denied the request to remain onboard, instead offering a transfer to home service. Nurse Lee-Heppel was notified of this decision in a letter dated January 20, 1916.

On January 31, 1916 the Goorkha once again arrived at Southampton and, during its short stay, Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel married William Thomas Forshaw in a registry office in Barnet on February 5, 1916. On Nurse Lee-Heppel’s application for the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R) she gave her home address as “Moss Bank”, North Finchley, London (in the borough of Barnet) which is undoubtedly why they married in a registry office there.8

William Thomas Forshaw & Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel Marriage Certificate

There wasn’t to be much of a honeymoon though because the Goorkha, with Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel on-board, embarked the baggage of 32 British General Hospital and sailed for Marseilles on February 8, 1916. In her subsequent letters to the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R), before she resigned for “urgent personal reasons” in August 1916, she referred to herself with her maiden name and provided a contact address “c/o Mrs. S. M. Forshaw”. The obvious conclusion is that she did not inform the authorities that she had married in February. Indeed, later in 1918, when she enquired about rejoining the service, while her husband served in India, she went so far as to state that she had left the service in September 1916 to get married.

When Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel left the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R) in September 1916, (she arrived in England from Malta on the Acquitania on September 27, 1916), she gave her address as Kilworth, County Cork. Although Captain Forshaw, (and Lieut. Cooke,  his subaltern at the Vineyard), was at Codford with the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in mid-March 19169, by September 1916, Captain Forshaw was an instructor at the 7th Officer Cadet Battalion, Kilworth, County Cork, Ireland10 and he remained there until October 1917.

Indian Army Service

Army Order 206 of 1917 invited officers already commissioned into the Special Reserve, Territorial Force and New Armies to apply for transfer to the Indian Army as they were short of commissioned officers. This was largely because, at the time, Indians were barred from receiving the King’s Commission, the highest rank obtainable by them being that of Subedar. Although Forshaw was a decorated Captain in the Territorial Army, in order to transfer to the Indian Army in late 1917 he was subject to the terms and conditions of Indian Army Order 511 of 1917, which came into effect on May 14th of that year (replacing Army Order No 729 of 1916 and Army Order 126 of 1917).

I.A.O. 511 of 1917 stipulated that pensionable service in the Indian Army was to be calculated from August 5, 1914 and that “only service in the regular forces before that date will count for pension”, which did not apply to him. Furthermore, it stated that for the purposes of promotion service will be “the period of commissioned service which he is permitted to count for pension less nine months, and the date of his commission in the Indian Army will be regulated accordingly.” It went on to say that “an officer will be on probation for the first year in the Indian Army” and that he “will join the Indian Army on probation in the rank to which his length of service, adjusted as above, would entitle him under Indian Army rules of promotion, any higher rank being relinquished” and that such readjustments of rank will be effected “In the case of an officer sent from England to India, from the date of landing in India.”

This meant that Forshaw’s service in the Indian Army began on November 25, 1917, (when he landed in India), and that his service for promotion was set at approximately 3 years and 3 ½ months, falling short of the 5 years required to attain the rank of Captain. Consequently, he was forced to revert to the rank of Lieutenant and would not be eligible for promotion until May 5, 1919. This may seem a little harsh for such a decorated officer but at that time promotion in the Indian Army was governed strictly by tenure and forfeiting 9 months of service was intended to level up the transferees with those regular army officers joining from the Military Colleges at Quetta or Sandhurst.

But there was still one more hurdle for him to overcome. IAO 511 also stipulated that in order to be eligible to transfer, “an officer must be unmarried”.  But luckily for Forshaw there was a loophole. IAO 510 of 1917, stated that, “In exceptional cases of proved merit in the field, of which His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief in India shall be the sole judge, the conditions laid down … may be waived, each case being judged on its merits. No, application in respect of such a case should, however, be submitted unless the officer’s services have been not only meritorious, but exceptionally so.”  Forshaw’s application must have been submitted as such an exceptional case based upon his Victoria Cross and it was rightly successful.

On October 7, 1917 Forshaw left the UK and transferred to the Indian Army. There he was attached to the 1st battalion 76th Punjabis. The 76th Punjabis was one of the Indian infantry regiments which were besieged at Kut-al-Amara and captured by the Turks when Kut fell on April 29, 1916. During the Siege of Kut, between December 1915 and the end of April 1916, the Regiment suffered 171 casualties. Approximately 250 officers and men were taken into captivity after the fall of Kut and many would subsequently perish from ill-treatment, starvation and disease.

On January 1, 1917, the Depot of the 76th Punjabis received orders to reform the Regiment and they moved to Chaman, (near what is now the Afghanistan-Pakistan border). In November, a nucleus of men were sent to join the 2nd Battalion which was then being raised at Nasirabad.

Forshaw arrived in country on November 25, 1917 and just over a week later he joined the 1st Battalion 76th Punjabi Regiment as a company officer. On February 1, 1918 the battalion moved to Dera Ismail Kahn, North West Frontier Province, India, (in what is today Pakistan). Just prior to the move, the 1-76th Punjabis were reviewed by the brigade commander, Brigadier-General T. H. Hardy, Commanding Quetta 2nd Infantry Brigade. His report stated:

The regiment has suffered by frequent changes of officers, but in spite of this it has attained a standard of efficiency which is very creditable for so short a time, reflecting much credit on Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm and his Officers. The Battalion now only requires more systematic training in Outpost, Attack and Defence on lines pointed out to be come a useful and efficient one and ready for war.

As a company officer, Forshaw was also reviewed by his commanding officer, Lt-Col. W. L. Malcolm, and by Brigadier-General Hardy. His C.O. stated “Should make a first rate officer in the Indian Army when he has acquired a colloquial knowledge of Hindustani.” and the Brigadier followed that with: “A very promising officer for the Indian Army. Keen and zealous.

Following his good review, Forshaw spent some time commanding a company and so was made acting Captain, and on November 25, 1918 he successfully completed his one year probation. On December 12, 1918 Sadie Forshaw sailed from Liverpool to Calcutta to reunite with her husband now that the war had finally ended. By April 1919 Forshaw had completed a junior staff course and was promoted to Captain on May 5, 1919 and attached to the Poona Brigade of the Southern Command as a Staff Captain. This move south meant that he missed the 76th Punjabis’ involvement in the 3rd Afghan War which began on May 3, 1919 when Afghan troops crossed the frontier at the western end of the Khyber Pass and captured the town of Bagh and ended with the Treaty of Rawalpindi on August 8, 1919. But things were far from settled on the North West Frontier and Forshaw was drawn into the revolt of the Wazir and Mahsud tribes when he was attached as a Staff Captain to the 67th Brigade of the Waziristan Force, serving with them with distinction from November 9, 1919 to July 26, 1920. During this time the 67th Brigade was part of the Tochi and Derajat Columns under the command of Major-General A. Skeen, C.M.G.

For his services on the Waziristan Force he earned the India General Service Medal with clasps ‘Mahsud 1919-20’, ‘Waziristan 1919-21’ and ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaf (for operations in Waziristan, 1919-20, by General Sir C. C. Monro, G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., in his despatch dated August 1st, 1920).

A few weeks after completing his service with the Waziristan Force he took home leave in England, sailing from Bombay on September 4, 1920 on the P&O liner RMS Kaiser-I-Hind. He returned to India with his wife and rejoined the 1st Battalion 76th Punjabis Depot at Kirkee, the Battalion having left for overseas service in Egypt and Palestine in February 1920, (and remained there until April 1922).

Forshaw remained with the Depot, (now at Ballary), until September 14, 1921 when he was appointed General Staff Officer, 3rd Grade, Southern Command (Poona) as Inspector of Educational Training. He filled this post until the end of 1921 when a more senior officer from the Army Education Corps (AEC) was appointed to the position. Nevertheless, Forshaw remained attached to the General Staff of the Southern Command (Poona) officiating as Staff Captain until March 31, 1922.

On December 1, 1922, the 76th Punjabis were consolidated with the 62nd, 66th, 82nd and 84th Punjabis, and the 1st Brahmans to form the 1st Punjab Regiment, and were re-designated as the “3rd Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment”. The latter part of 1922 was a time of great organizational change within the Indian Army and perhaps related to this upheaval, Forshaw resigned his commission, retaining the rank of Captain. Accumulated home leave pushed out his official resignation date to November 3, 1922 but immigration records show that he and his wife, along with several of his brother officers, arrived at Plymouth from Bombay on August 25, 1922.

Civilian Life

Back in England, Forshaw had difficulty finding suitable employment as a schoolmaster. Although he had been a Certificated Teacher before the war, his Indian Army service did not count towards his teaching experience, (despite being assigned to Educational posts there), and so he found himself 8 years behind where he should have been had he not answered his country’s call to service.

In 1919 Lord Burnham chaired a parliamentary committee charged with developing a single national pay scale for teachers in elementary schools. Subsequently, the Burnham Committee was tasked with drawing up a scale for secondary school teachers and for those in further education. The reports were very specific about exactly what war service counted and what did not. Since Forshaw volunteered to join the Indian Army in 1917, and continued to serve after the end of the war, his entire military service was deemed inadmissible. Additionally, he was seeking employment four years after the end of the war which compounded the difficulty explaining why he had not taught for 8 years.

Consequently, he was forced to take an educational position in Egypt with the Royal Air Force helping to organize and administer more formal trade training courses for the airmen tasked with maintaining aircraft. A task which was rapidly becoming more technical as engines and aircraft systems increased in complexity, outstripping the knowledge and skills the RAF could reasonably expect from their recruits.

Immigration records show that he and his wife returned to England from Egypt on April 15, 1925. Upon their return they settled in Ipswich, where he briefly taught at s council school, later moving to Martlesham Hall, in Woodbridge, a few miles east of the city.

Martlesham Hall
Copyright Attribution: Andrew Hill / Martlesham Hall

In September 1927, he purchased an old golf clubhouse building and used it to start an all boys junior school called “Rushmere Heath School for Boys”, in the nearby village of Rushmere St. Andrew.11 Unfortunately, the school was not successful and just one year later he was forced to sell the school building at auction, in November 1928. Shortly thereafter, his creditors started legal proceedings against him which eventually forced him into bankruptcy in the middle of 1929. Forced to leave Martlesham Hall, he subsequently gave his parent’s address in Barrow as his residence in court documents.12 13

Forshaw was invited to the Victoria Cross dinner, held at the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords on Saturday, November 9, 1929. The dinner was chaired by the Duke of Windsor, the Prince of Wales, with 319 holders of the Victoria Cross present. Following a ballot held to determine place-settings, Captain W. T. Forshaw, V.C. was allocated seat 199, on Table 7, (this table seating 28 people including newspaper reporters from the Daily Express, Daily Sketch, Morning Post, and the Australian Press Association)14. Interestingly, his medal index card shows that his Victory, British and 15 Star medals, along with his India General Service Medal (with Waziristan 1919-21 clasp and MiD Oak Leaves emblem), were issued to him that month and since Forshaw’s original Victoria Cross medal had been lost, he was presented with an official duplicate, from Hancocks of London, on the same day as the dinner so that he could be properly attired.

Forshaw's Medals as worn to the VC Dinner
Courtesy of the Manchester Regiment collection (Tameside MBC)

[Victoria Cross; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaves; India General Service Medal with clasps ‘Mahsud 1919-20’, ‘Waziristan 1919-21’ and ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaf.]

After the setback of personal bankruptcy, he gave up his ambitions of ever teaching again and switched his focus to educational writing and film production. In July and August of 1930, after visiting Gallipoli himself, the Coventry Evening Telegraph published a series of nine short articles of his, published weekly, titled “Gallipoli Revisited”, which was also featured on the radio. And in September 1930 he published an article in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News describing a Gymkhana on the North-West Frontier of India that he attended while serving there. This work eventually led to him, in 1933, being appointed as the Midlands representative for Industrial Film Productions of Gaumont-British Equipments, Ltd., a subsidiary of Gaumont-British. A short article in a trade magazine at the time reported that he:

“has had considerable journalistic experience. He has written scenarios and produced several commercial films. For some time he conducted Trade tests in the Royal Air Force, and has made a study of the application of films to the needs of industry and commerce.”

Evidently, he was still reasonably fit and athletic because he won the “100 yards veterans’ handicap” at the Gaumont-British Sports Day in June 1934. Despite this new sporting accolade, by September 1939 he had left Gaumont-British, but remained in the midlands, and was employed as a representative for a Shadow Aircraft Factory in Birmingham.

Home Guard

On the evening of Tuesday 14th May 1940, Sir Anthony Eden, The Secretary of State for War, made an urgent appeal on the radio for all men aged between 17 and 65, not already serving in the armed forces, to become part-time, unpaid soldiers and join the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). Within 24 hours of the radio broadcast a quarter of a million men had volunteered and by the end of July this number had risen to over a million. On 22 July, 1940 the LDV was officially renamed the Home Guard and by the end of 1940 the Home Guard was organized into 1,200 battalions, 5,000 companies and 25,000 platoons. In February 1941, nominal ranks were introduced for Home Guard officers, to match those of the regular Army.

At 50, being too old to enlist in the Army, Forshaw joined the Home Guard in 1940 and was for some time stationed at the Murex Works at Rainham, Essex with the 11th City of London (Dagenham) Battalion. It was here that he was later involved in a tragic car accident that injured the driver and killed the pillion passenger of a motorcycle, when his car collided with it at the end of 1940. In February 1941, when nominal ranks were introduced for Home Guard officers, Forshaw was appointed Major. And in September 1941, he successfully petitioned the court to lift his bankruptcy judgement as he was hoping to take up a paid commission with the Army, although there is no evidence that he actually did so. In fact, by March 1942 he was still in the Home Guard assigned as a Staff Officer, (general branch, responsible for operations, intelligence and training), for the London North East Sub Area, K Zone, of which the 11th, 12th and 13th City of London Battalions were part of.

On November 11, 1942 his 86 year old father died and he traveled up to Barrow for his funeral that weekend, his mother Elizabeth Forshaw, (née Preston), having died earlier in 1936. Just six months later he was himself to die, suddenly, of a cerebral hemorrhage, while working in the garden at Foxearth Cottage in Holyport, Berkshire where he and his wife had moved around 18 months previously. Major William Thomas Forshaw, V.C., died on May 26, 1943. He was 53 years old.

William Thomas Forshaw Death Certificate

Sadly, William’s younger brother Frank would also die of a cerebral hemorrhage, 7 years later, when he was just 55 years old.

The newspapers of the day carried short desultory obituaries of just a few sentences focused on the briefest of details regarding his award and resurrecting the ‘Cigarette VC’ nickname; nothing more. In keeping with his Wesleyan roots he was buried in the graveyard attached to the Anglican Holy Trinity church at Touchen End Cemetery, at Bray, Berkshire. He was buried at Touchen End, rather than the Bray churchyard since it had been closed to burials since 1941. The Assistant Curate at Bray, Revd. E.S.C. Lowman, buried Forshaw on May 29, 1943.

Touchen End Cemetery
Copyright Mike Crane

Sadie Forshaw died just under 10 years later in 1952, aged 72.15

Commemoration

On November 16, 1964 his original, (as certified by Hancocks), Victoria Cross was put up for auction by Glendining & Co, London. Despite strong interest, the medal was purchased by Bt. Colonel John Edgar Rogerson, O.B.E. M.C. T.D. J.P., honorary colonel of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, on their behalf for a record price of £1,150 and is today held by the Museum of the Manchester Regiment, in Tameside. To their enduring credit, shortly before the auction, a group of Barrow businessmen and old boys of Barrow Grammar School withdrew their offer to bid after learning that the Manchester Regiment were bidding. Likewise, Westminster College, Oxford also withdrew their offer when they too learned of the regimental interest.

Due to the exigencies of World War 2, Major Forshaw was buried without any official commemorative headstone and as a consequence the grave was for many years unknown to the public and the graveyard fell into some disrepair.

Original Condition of Forshaw's Gravesite at Touchen End
Copyright Iain Stewart
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But 51 years later, after the church had been deconsecrated and converted into a private residence, the grave was “rediscovered”, through the efforts of researchers in the Tameside area, and a new headstone was dedicated and provided by the Manchester Regiment at a dedication ceremony on Monday October 17, 1994.

W. T. Forshaw's Headstone, Touchen End Cemetery
Copyright Mike Crane

In November 1996, a blue plaque commemorating the life of William Forshaw was unveiled at the entrance to Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton.

Ashton Town Hall VC's Blue Plaque

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In 2005, on the 90th anniversary of the action in which Lieut. Forshaw won his Victoria Cross, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the private residence Foxearth Cottage, Holyport where he and Sadie had lived.

Roy Johnson & Terry Nicolson Unveiling of the Plaque at Foxearth Cottage on August 12, 2005
Copyright Bayliss Media, Ltd.

And on Sunday August 9, 2015, to mark the 100 year anniversary of the action that led to the award of the Victoria Cross, a commemorative paving stone was unveiled in Barrow Park halfway up the hill leading to the town’s cenotaph. Members of Forshaw’s family, the Officer in Command of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (into which the Manchester Regiment was absorbed through amalgamations in 1958 and 2006) and local dignitaries all took part.

Barrow Commemorative Paving Stone
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Post Script

Touchen End Cemetery as it looked in 2022:

Forshaw's Gravestone Closeup
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Notes:

[1.] Westminster College Archives. Programme, ‘Westminster Training College, Fifth Inter-Year Athletic Sports, Tuesday, February 15th, 1910’. Link here. William was beaten in the final by another future Victoria Cross winner from Westminster College, Donald Simpson Bell, who was a noted athlete and went on to be a professional footballer for Bradford AFC. [back]

[2.] In 1911, there was no vessel in the Turkish Navy that could match the recently acquired Greek Navy cruiser Georgios Averoff. Consequently, Turkey resolved to buy dreadnoughts and the Ministry of the Navy placed an order with the British shipyard Vickers Ltd, in Barrow. The 27,500-ton ship was to be named Reşadiye and its price-tag was 2.3 million liras, to be paid in installments. In Turkey, a commission was appointed to monitor the construction of the dreadnought and this commission, led by Maj. Vasıf Ahmet Bey, went to Britain in 1912. More information here. [back]

[3.] From May 9 – June 30, 6 officers were killed, 4 were wounded & evacuated and 6 were evacuated sick to hospital. Additionally, Lt.s Shaw and Hyde went to Kepha on June 15 and Lt. Lillie transferred to Brigade in June. Although Lt.-Col. Egerton was attached to replace Lt.-Col. Wade as battalion CO, Egerton only lasted 2 weeks and so Major Nowell assumed command from June 9 – July 16. Major RP Lewis was attached to the battalion on June 4th and 2/Lt. Balmford arrived from the UK on June 22nd. [back]

[4.] Four officers joined on July 2nd and one officer was killed, three were wounded and evacuated and two were evacuated sick to hospital. Major RP Lewis was wounded and left the battalion on July 6th. On the plus side, Lt.-Col. Falcon arrived on July 16 freeing up Major Nowell. [back]

[5.] Fifty Thousand Miles on a Hospital Ship by Charles Steel Wallis describes Forshaw as a passenger from Alexandria to England. Link here. Although Wallis does not name the ship directly, there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence pointing to the Goorkha such as: the “Norwegian Matron” (Matron Fredrikke Christopherson was born in Lyngor, Norway), the Scottish Colonel with “the Kaiser-i-Hind decoration, wears the colours for the South African and North-West Frontier campaigns”, the gross tonnage referenced in the book, and the fact that the dates from the book match the dates in the war diary. [back]

[6.] Matron Fredrikke Wilhelmine Christopherson’s service record can be found at the National Archives here Link here. [back]

[7.] Lt. Col. Patrick Balfour Haig. Ancestry link here. [back]

[8.] “Moss Bank”, North Finchley was the home address of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Houle French and on her QAIMNS (R) application papers Ms. Lee-Heppel listed Mrs. (Dolina) French as her “nearest relative”. Dr. and Mrs. French were the two witnesses to the wedding. [back]

[9.] 1205 Corporal Samuel Eyre, was invalided to the UK from Gallipoli due to enteric. After he recovered, he was posted to Codford with the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment where, on March 15, 1916, he was court martialed for smoking on parade. Lieut. Forshaw and 2/Lieut. Cooke were listed members of the court martial panel. Cpl. Eyre was found guilty and lost his stripe; a little harsh considering his service record. Ancestry link here. [back]

[10.] Westminster College Archives. A/4/a/i, Roll of Men in the King’s Forces. Link here. [back]

[11.] In 1895, Ipswich Golf Club was formed when it leased some common land on Rushmere Heath. In 1927, Ipswich Golf Club moved to Purdis Heath but some members wished to remain at Rushmere, and so formed the Rushmere Golf Club. The original clubhouse, standing next to the heath, was sold to William Thomas Forshaw of 19 Fonnereau Road, Ipswich on September 29, 1927 for £1,200. It was advertised as being suitable for an institution, school, club, etc. On November 29, 1928 it was again advertised at auction but now as Rushmere Heath School, a boys school. It was sold for £1,450 to the Rushmere Golf Club and became their new clubhouse. [back]

[12.] A petition of bankruptcy was filed against him by an unnamed creditor on April 20, 1929, (a bankruptcy petition is an application to the court for someone’s assets to be taken and sold to pay their debts). A receiving order was subsequently issued on June 14, (a receiving order places the debtor’s property under the control of the official receiver). The official receiver in this case being Harry Scotchmer Gotelee, the Official Receiver of Ipswich. The Adjudication Order was issued on July 6, 1929 making him legally bankrupt from that date forward. [back]

[13.] In September 1941, when William Forshaw successfully petitioned the court to lift his bankruptcy judgement, he told the judge that his financial troubles began when he borrowed money from a native firm while serving in India. [back]

[14.] Information regarding the seating arrangements at the 1929 VC dinner is available here. [back]

[15.] The Civil Registration Death Index record from 1952 indicates Sadie’s age at death to be 72. This squares with her 1891 and 1901 census records which also infer that she was born in 1879/80. However, in her Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R) application in 1914 she gave her date of birth as May 25, 1884 and passenger records from ships she sailed on in the 1920s consistently infer her year of birth to be 1888. Thus, by her own account, the older she got, the younger she became. If we assume that she was not Benjamin Button then we have to stick with the official numbers. It’s my belief that she was born on May 25, 1879. [back]

References:

  1. Collected newspaper articles for William Thomas Forshaw. Link here.
  2. Fifty Thousand Miles on a Hospital Ship by Charles Steel Wallis. Link here.
  3. Lines of Communication Troops, Hospital Ship, Goorkha (WO 95/4145/5), National Archives. Link here.
  4. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, Name Heppel, Mollie (WO 399/3768), National Archives. Link here.
  5. Victoria Cross details of Forshaw, William Thomas (WO 98/8/196), National Archives. Link here.
  6. http://www.victoriacross.org.uk

Other Biographies:

  1. VCs of the First World War: Gallipoli, by Stephen Snelling. (October 4, 2010). ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0752456539.
  2. VCs of the North: Cumbria, Durham & Northumberland, by Alan Whitworth. (October 30, 2015). ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0189PTX82.
  3. Volunteer Infantry of Ashton-Under–Lyne, by Robert Bonner. (2005) ISBN-10: 1873907141.
  4. Key Military, The Chain Smoking VC. by Stephen Snelling.
  5. Museum of the Manchester Regiment, Men Behind the Medals.
  6. The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History (OCMCH), Archives & Library – William Thomas Forshaw, V.C. (1890-1943).
  7. The VC Online, William Thomas Forshaw VC.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank the author Stephen Snelling for providing permission to use the photograph of Lt. Forshaw and (who I believe to be) Nurse Lee-Heppel on the hospital ship Goorkha, Iain Stewart for permission to reproduce two newspaper articles and for supplying the photos of Touchen End Cemetery as it was when Forshaw’s grave was discovered. Thanks also go to Mike Crane for his photographs of Touchen End cemetery.